First, if you can, please join the contingent at 2pm this Sunday the 27th in Bryant Park at the corner of 41st Street and 6th Avenue.
More generally, I will explain the context in Palestine, and New York City, in that order. Back in April, during Ramadan, tensions began to once again boil over in the West Bank because Israeli police cut off the loudspeakers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that the muezzin’s call to prayer wouldn’t disturb Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s speech for Memorial Day at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Israeli police also closed the plaza outside Damascus Gate, which is a popular nighttime hangout, especially during Ramadan. That closure led to nighttime clashes, and though the barricades came down, sporadic violence started to gain momentum – a rabbi was beaten to death in Jaffa, the far-right group Lehava held a march through Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs,” and the IDF began striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from fringe militant groups.
Tensions ultimately exploded in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on May 6. when the members of the Kahanist and fiercely anti-Arab party Otzma Yehudit began tabling there. The provocation lead to street violence that spread over the next few days to Al-Aqsa Mosque, communities across the West Bank, and Arab communities in Israel proper – which is unprecedented. Hamas issued an ultimatum and different militia groups in the Gaza Strip fired over a hundred rockets that triggered weeks of bombing by the Israeli Air Force. Protests mobilized all over the world, in response to the disproportionate violence, with a level of passion that was frankly shocking.
In New York City, the events unfolded on a background of increased leftist organizing and political agitation, with support from elected officials. Yet Palestine solidarity work has been taking a severe beating, with laws passing against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and censorship in universities and mass media. For organizers, while the events in Palestine were bloody, they triggered a sudden wave of badly needed support and energy. In New York, Palestine organizing is very divided, but the level of warmth between organizations has been refreshing – even if the cracks are showing. It is a good time for people to start recommitting themselves to the cause, which is why Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has reactivated with this march.